Madwort Saxophone Quartet - Live at 100 Years Gallery
(Efpi FP025 . CD Review by Peter Slavid)
I think it's fair to say that saxophone quartets are something of an acquired taste. There have only been a few distinguished examples over the years – the World and Rova quartets stand out in the memory, and it's never really caught on as a format. Part of the reason for that is the problem of translating on to CD the very visual live performances - where the separation between the instruments is very obvious. On CD it's much harder to inject the variety of a live performance – but the London based Madwort Quartet make a good fist of it.
Madwort is led by alto sax player Tom Ward, a composer and saxophone player who has built a selection of Madwort Ensembles of which this is in some ways the most interesting.
He is supported here by an outstanding cast. Cath Roberts on baritone is one half of the Lume empire and these days seems to crop up in umpteen bands of her own and other people, most of them leaning towards the free improvisation end of jazz (Sloth Racket, Ripsaw Catfish and Word Of Moth to name a few). Chris Williams is equally ubiquitous appearing in more rock orientated bands such as Led Bib and Let Spin amongst others. Andrew Woolf on tenor has a background that includes Brazilian music.
This wide variety of individual musical backgrounds are brought together here in a mix of classical compositions, melodies and free improvisation. This is often complex music with elements of minimalism, hints of Tim Beirne, and improvisations that range from the flowing to the free.
In most of the tunes one or more of the saxes is chosen to provide the rhythmic base with the others providing melody and improvisation over the top. In many ways I found the slower numbers such as On The Opening Of A Dwarf Sunflower and Islands In The Green more interesting, relying as they do on a less predictable interaction. But these are all talented musicians and their individual improvisations usually create something interesting.
I strongly urge you to get out and see the band live, but this CD captures some of the buzz they can generate, and marks them out as a good local addition to the sparse ranks of quality saxophone quartets.
Peter Slavid broadcasts a radio programme of European jazz at www.mixcloud.com/ukjazz